The St Vincent’s Quarter is fast becoming another Kelham and is currently one vast building site especially in the Hollis Croft area which we featured in the ‘Improvements at St. Vincents’ Blog.
Recent details in the press tell us that a new ‘£62.5m suburb with 1,000 beds worth of accommodation’. It is due to be completed by 2019 and will have a major impact on this historic area. There are still some interesting buildings left around here though and one of HHB’s success stories was obtaining a Grade II listing for the 1878 St. Vincent’s Presbytery a.k.a. Provincial House on Solly Street in 2014. Further down Solly Street sits the St. Vincent’s Boys School which is slightly earlier at 1863 and was once part of a much large school complex in this Catholic quarter which was the home to many new Irish settlers at that time. It is a nice stone-built building which was in use right up until the 1980s but has lain derelict since then.
Plans have now been submitted by the Diocese of Hallam and Parish of St. Vincent’s Church to re-furbish and extend the old school to create a new facility to be known as The Mission Hub. A two-storey side extension will be added which has been purposely designed in ‘contemporary style to contrast and enhance the original building’. Hmm.
The extension will be used for advice and support accommodation which will free up the main building for its main use i.e. to create religious and social space for young adults (20s and 30s) and young families. It will also function as a Catholic student chaplaincy for university students to meet informally, pray and study. Mass will be taken for one hour per day and it is anticipated that the Sunday Mass will attract 50/100 people. Its full working capacity will be 260 and the Church will be situated on the upper floor which still has some nice original roof trusses. The communal space will be downstairs together with a café which will be open to the public. The old school playground will be turned into a car-park and an interesting fact is that the whole site is sitting on an old coal seam, as is much of this area. The seam is not a continuous one and it was last worked in 1871 and has now settled down so there are no risks. Phew – that’s a relief!
The Conservation Advisory Group were fairly happy with the scheme but did not like the idea of lowering the windowsills on the street frontage as this always leads to vandalism for some reason and creates unwanted would-be seating. There was also some concern that the replacement Church style windows would be in aluminium which is notoriously difficult to bend and also very costly. Wood is the obvious material but long-term maintenance is presumably the reason for this inappropriate choice.
All in all then a good scheme which will bring a nice old building back into a very worthy use, enhance the area and complement the St. Vincent’s Church restoration which is still ongoing.